Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Star Trek: Klingon Bird of Prey

I'm shopping at the Time Square Toys R Us, selected what I want (or not, if they don't have anything I'm looking for), and then I go down the basement floor, where they keep all the die-cast cars. I find the Klingon Bird of Prey and take it to a scanner to verify it's still $15.

It is. It always is.

I do this every time I go in. For about a year. The Bird of Prey moves around sometimes, but I always find it, always scan it. And it's always fifteen bucks.

Until today. Today, it's eight dollars. And, unlike $15, that's something I'm willing to pay.

This is a pretty cool toy. The package claims it's die-cast - and I'm sure some of it is - but the majority is clearly plastic. No problem: if I was prejudiced against fossil fuels I wouldn't be running this blog.

Like the Next Gen Enterprise I bought last year, it's a lot bigger than the matchbox cars, but a good deal shorter than the more expensive Diamond Select toys.

This actually has some articulation in the wings. You can move them into three positions - up, neutral, and down - similar to how they move in the show. The base, while echoing the shape of the Federation symbol, is in Klingon colors and has their empire's insignia on the side. Once again, the ship is held in place by a ball-joint.

Which reminds me: be very careful when playing with these. The reason you don't see any comparison shots with the Next Gen Enterprise is that the peg snapped on me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Custom: Sinestro Corps. Skeletor

Sometimes there's a custom idea that burns a hole in your head, that you spend months planning, collecting the right pieces, and building in painstaking detail.

Other times, you think of an idea, grab some junk from your bins, and whip something up in fifteen minutes.

This... isn't the former.

The body's from the Sinestro Corps Batman I reviewed over here. The head's from one of the Skeletor figures I won on eBay and discussed over here. And that small cape is from... ah... well... a plastic bag full of assorted capes we keep in our bin of custom junk. The yellow lightning he has in some of the pictures is from the same Shadowrun Liada figure we bought and tore apart years ago. I don't think Lindsay and I have ever gotten as much mileage out of anything as we got out of that figure.

Okay, the head looks small at some angles. From the side, with the shawl, it looks about right, but head-on it seems tiny. For what it's worth, it was a lot worse before I added that over-cape.

By the way, that thing works incredibly well with his existing hood. It has a small hood at the top that kind of sticks onto the bottom of Skeletor's hood and makes it look like one piece.

The yellow sword originally came with the He-Man Vs. Superman 2-pack I bought at Toys R Us a year and a half ago. I've been trying to think of something to do with that ever since: it's a great piece, but I prefer displaying He-Man with other accessories.

Finally, the Havoc Staff is one of the three I made and discussed here.

Sure. I could have used a painted MotU Classics Skeletor head to correct the scale, and I could have replaced Batman's cape and forearms (or just used a different body as a base). But all of that requires buying more toys. Not to mention work.

For something whipped up in less than an hour, I'm kind of loving the newest recruit to the Sinestro Corps.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When is a Review Not a Review?

With a name like E. Nigma, what could Edward have aspired to beside supervillainy, and with so keen a mind, who else but the Batman could he match wits against? Why does a Joker knock-off endure and become associated with a beloved actor? How does the character survive and adapt to each editorial change and paradigm shift in comics?

More importantly, how does a third-rate villain manage not one but two releases in Mattel's DC Universe Classics line? And is Mattel so strapped for money they feel the need to leave his cane unpainted?

Upon setting eyes upon the detailed arm of Bane, will I be driven to collect and connect all the pieces? And, perhaps most importantly, would I ever have purchased The Riddler had he not been marked down to $12.50 at Toys R Us?

Is this a great figure? A good one? Would I have bought him otherwise?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Star Trek Enterprise Broken Bow Deluxe: Lt. Malcolm Reed and Tactical Systems Base

I haven't seen all of Star Trek: Enterprise, but I actually really like most of what I have. I know there's not a lot of love out there for this show - even fans of Voyager seem to dismiss it - but I was impressed with what I saw. I can't help but think that, had the show been given a theme song which wasn't THE SINGLE WORST EVER RECORDED IN TELEVISION HISTORY, maybe - just maybe - it could have lasted more than three seasons. Pity: I thought the show itself was pretty good.

So. How'd I end up owning this? That's mainly due to Figure of the Day, a website which offers a single action figure each day. I've been trying to keep an eye on the site. This showed up a few weeks back for twenty bucks, and I grabbed it, partly for the playset and partly as an experiment to see if the site was any good.

Shipping was included in the price, and it arrived fast and in great condition. What's more, the folks at Figure of the Day tossed in a Star Trek poster along with it, which was awfully nice of them.

The set (produced by Art Asylum back in the day) comes disassembled, but it's fairly easy to put together. None of the panels do anything, but there are a few play features. First, there's a button on the floor that cycles through some sounds and voice effects. It's incredibly loud but not particularly clear; I don't plan on playing with that too much.

Far more useful, the chair can swivel and is on a sliding track. This is a nice feature, one I'm happy to have. I should probably mention that this is supposed to be part of a full bridge. There's a small, plastic connector, should you buy the other sets and link them together. Assuming they released all the other sets, that is: I'm not sure whether they had a chance before the line was cancelled.

The figure... is bizarre. From the pictures, I'd assumed he was more or less a statue, similar to what you'd get from NECA. In fact, the outfit is mostly a thin, rubber membrane concealing a fully articulated figure beneath. Conceptually, it's got some merit: in reality... not so much.

First of all, his hips just look weird when he's sitting. On top of that, the rubber suit functions like a sort of elastic, preventing him from retaining positions you're not holding him in.

So, neat idea, but it doesn't really work. Pity, because the set itself is beautiful. But, what are you going to do? I mean, it's HIS playset. You can't just walk up and take it away from -- WHA?


Ahem. Sorry. Where were we? Oh yes. We were reviewing my new Bat-Computer Console Playset.

Granted, it's missing a giant screen, but I plan on correcting that in time. The overall look of the Bat-Computer console is pretty fantastic, with angled panels that evoke a bat's wings and high tech looking knobs and buttons. It's kind of perfect.

I particularly like how Batman's cape flows over the chair. It looks great, and keeps him in place. All in all, this is a fantastic bat-computer console.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What I Learned Yesterday

I realized something yesterday, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

One day, I'm going to die. No, this wasn't yesterday's big revelation: I came to my own conclusions about my mortality when I turned thirty, just like everyone else. What I realized yesterday is what's going to happen to me after I die.

I mean, I don't have a play-by-play to offer here: bright light, life flashing before eyes, bla bla bla. I don't really know how you die. I'm talking about what comes after all that.

I'm going to find myself in a toy store. The biggest toy store I've ever seen. And it's going to be filled to the brim with action figures, playsets; everything you could image, every toy I've ever wanted in my entire life. Old toys, new toys; toys which haven't been made in years from companies long out of business, toys that have never existed because they're too cool to imagine. Twelve inch, high end figures will be sitting side by side with intricately rendered vehicles.

You get the picture.

Anyway, I'll be standing there, in that giant store, taking it all in; the grandeur and the beauty and the utter awesomeness of everything around me.

Then, right before he vanishes, the devil will pat me on the back and say, "Go ahead. You can choose any ONE toy you want. Go on. Pick."



That's dirty pool.

DCU Classics Mad Love: Harley Quinn & The Joker 2 Pack

Both of these figures are reissues, but this is the absolute best kind of reissue out there: the kind where I don't own either of the toys included. Sure, I've got other Joker and Quinn figures from DC Direct or tied to movies, but nothing from this line.

I almost bought the Joker's earlier releases once or twice, though I didn't really love the head (more on that later). It was almost worth it for the accessories alone. Not quite, seeing as he was often going for $20 or more, but the accessories looked really cool. Good thing they're all included here.

Harley Quinn sold out in a heartbeat when she was first released. I actually came across her at the time, and almost bought her. If there's a DC Comics fan who doesn't love Harley, I haven't met them. If it weren't for the awful blue paint sprayed on her face at the time, I would have picked her up (you can find some photos and a review discussing the paint here).

The Mad Love set is a Toys R Us exclusive released to cash in on the love fans have for these characters. I think this is actually the third time this Joker sculpt has been offered (albeit with new colors), and the second for Ms. Quinn. The packaging is fun, with subtle hearts embedded right in the clear plastic and a giant exploding heart behind them.

I mentioned earlier that I wasn't crazy about the Joker's head sculpt, which is actually a little misleading. For the record, I think this is a well sculpted, well executed head. It's just not the version I'd have chosen.

I don't have any problem with the Golden and Silver Age versions of the Joker, but when I'm collecting action figures I tend to steer towards more timeless and less dated designs. I appreciate that there are a lot of Batman fans out there who consider this THE timeless Joker, but I respectfully disagree. While I like this Joker, my favorite remains my DC Direct Unmasked Joker.

I also consider this an incredibly bizarre Joker sculpt for this box set. Ostensibly, this is suppose to reflect Alex Ross's famous painting of the couple, however his Joker was far more modern in appearance. Mattel wasn't about to spend the kind of money commissioning a new sculpt requires when they have a perfectly serviceable one already. Instead, they repainted the Joker's outfit (the original had been brightly colored) and released him with a corrected Harley.

Seeing as the alternative was not getting this set at all, I'm not about to complain. I'm thrilled to get a much needed Harley, a good Joker, and a huge pile of accessories. Speaking of which:

Unless I'm mistaken, I believe this includes everything released with both original Harley and Joker figures, minus the build-a-figure parts. And it turns out those two had some fantastic extras. The Joker comes with a beautiful cane (gorgeously painted, I'd add), a Joker Mallet, a laughing fish, and playing cards. Harley comes with her own mallet and a pop gun: not quite as large an assortment, but nothing to scoff at.

The sculpt on the Joker's mallet is really neat. In addition to oversized J's on the front and back (presumably to sign his victims), the handle forms the nose of a sadistic face. Here's a clearer view:

The only weak point here is paint: unlike every other accessory, this lacks a drop. The green plastic, while appropriate to the Joker's sensibilities, just feels garish. I might have to touch this up at some point in the future.

I already mentioned that The Joker's cane looked good. Mine was a little warped coming out of the package, but I was able to correct that with a dip in hot water.

Joker's next accessory is a handful of reversible playing cards. One side shows the card backs, and the other reveals, what else:

I love that Joker, but I wish they'd put some effort into the other cards. Only a portion is visible, but it should be enough to see some of the faces and numbers. It's not a huge issue: overall, this is a great accessory. Almost as great as his "laughing fish."

The laughing fish originates from a story from the 70's of the same name, where the Joker poisons Gotham's fish so they'll bear his likeness. This is ostensibly all part of a plan to claim copyright ownership of the image and claim a cut of Gotham's fishing industry. This sounds like a vintage Silver Age Joker plan, and to some extent it is. However, rather than dismissing this, the story delved into the madness of the Joker scheme: it didn't reflect actual copyright law, and wouldn't work at all. Ultimately, the Joker was interested in hurting and killing people, and the fish was just an excuse to achieve that end. The entire thing was a sick, convoluted joke: he was after pain, not money.

It intrigues me that Mattel more or less gave the Joker the same accessories the 13 inch DC Direct version had. Only the mallet is different. Given that these are all great choices, I can only applaud the decision on Mattel's part. There's no shame in copying so long as you choose the right things to copy.

Harley's two accessories are just about perfect; a mix of whimsy and violence that defines her character. Both are fantastically sculpted and painted, as it the figure herself.

Articulation on these two is up to this line's normal standards, which is to say really good. Actually, in the case of The Joker the joints are a little too good: the cuts interrupt the sculpt a bit more than I'd like.

This two-pack is a Toys R Us exclusive, so I'd look there to avoid paying a mark-up. At the Times Square store, which isn't known for low prices, I found this for $37. My guess is it'll be offered a bit cheaper most places. Honestly, I'd expected this to be more: the Green Lantern/Sinestro 2-pack there runs $41. Also, if you're hoping for a deal, be aware these characters are fan favorites. Unless Toys R Us ordered a lot of them (possible, but I wouldn't bet on it), they probably won't last to land on clearance.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tron Legacy Deluxe Light Runner

Last year's Tron Legacy was, above all else, a very pretty movie. It might not have been all that good, at least not objectively speaking, but it was certainly nice to look at.

Before the movie hit, I picked up a pair of three packs of small, die-cast vehicles, which I reviewed back at The Clearance Bin. They were fine, if unexceptional, toys.

Recently, I was wandering around the toy section of K-Mart (as I'm wont to do), and I stumbled across a Deluxe Light Runner marked all the way down to five bucks. These generally retail for something in the neighborhood of twenty, so that's a pretty substantial cut. I figured that, worst case scenario, I was getting a cool custom base with a light-up feature.

This is made by Spin Master, a company I have very little familiarity with. The toy itself is nice, but not stellar. It's scaled to hold 3 3/4 inch figures. Here's a shot of the Prince of Persia taking it for a test drive:

The thickness and consistency of the plastic varies in different parts of the vehicle. Some parts feel extremely light, though they seem flexible enough to resist snapping (not that I'll be testing that theory, mind you).

I should probably add that the Light Runner seems to use Flintstone's technology: there's an opening beneath the figures, presumably so they can run to propel the vehicle - why else call it a Runner?

The light-up feature is far and away the standout aspect of this toy. It's fairly bright and visually interesting, though I wish it stayed lit longer (there's very little difference between the 'on' and 'try me' settings). It uses three LEDs to get the effect, and it does approximate the look of the film. All in all, it's pretty cool.

The Runner also has some spring-loaded guns, which pop up when you open the hatches holding them down. I like the mechanism, though the guns themselves could use some detail work.

The cockpit opens and closes, allowing you to place figures inside, if you're so inclined.

In case you were worried, the wheels do turn. Or, more accurately, the outer lining of the wheels spin, while the axels are locked.

Finally, the front section is hinged, allowing the runner to drive over obstacles. It's kind of neat, though I can think of other features I'd rather have.

The main thing missing here is a figure. I'm a strong believer that plastic vehicles and playsets should always have at least one figure included. I suspect the fact this didn't contributed towards it lingering on the shelf long enough to drop to five bucks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Donkey Kong

A few months ago, I reviewed three Super Mario figures I picked up at a store in Queens. Those came packaged in stapled, plastic bags, cost me five bucks each, and may actually be the exact same figures that Toys R Us is selling for $17.50. At the time, I said they were smaller, but since then I've taken a closer look at what's on the pegs, and I'm not so sure anymore. I suppose I could always buy one as an experiment and check, but... yeah... not going to happen.

At any rate, the only one of the four figures Toys R Us is selling I didn't get was Donkey Kong, which was kind of a shame. See, the first video game I ever owned was Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision, and to this day the character remains one of my favorites in the Super Smash Bros. series.

But I still wasn't paying eighteen bucks for him.

Fortunately, Barnes & Noble was a bit more reasonable. They were selling these figures for $8.95, still a little pricey but a huge improvement.

I say that nine is pricey because - frankly - the toy isn't great. The sculpt is fine but nothing special, the paint is sloppy in some places, and the articulation is grossly inadequate. Also, keep in mind that this is a hollow figure made of soft plastic. In hand, this just doesn't feel like a nine dollar figure, let alone twice that.

Donkey Kong has four joints on the shoulders and hips. This does give you a few posing options: he can sit, stand on all fours, and stand upright. However, the lack of a neck joint is extremely limiting and irritating.

There's a fifth point of articulation, though it's not a joint. Donkey Kong's tie can be moved around him in case you want it off center or blowing in some imaginary breeze. Again, the lack of a neck joint limits the effect you can get with this.

This definitely isn't an awful toy, but I'd feel a lot better about the purchase if he'd been five or six bucks. Then again, I'd feel a lot worse if I had broken down and bought him at Toys R Us.